Meet the Maker: Alison Hardcastle
Alison Hardcastle is an independent stationery studio, producing stylish, clever and playful greetings cards, paper goods and prints that we love to stock. Started in 2005 by founder Alison, the small team now work from her garden studio in Yorkshire.
Alison’s vision: to design striking products with true meaning and genuine creative integrity to be used for everyday adventures, monumental occasions and for the love of good design.
Alison answered a few questions for us to give us a bit more of an insight into how she's grown her wonderful business, and what everyday life is like running it...
Can you summarise your journey to becoming a designer in five steps?
1. I always wanted to draw - as a child I was always drawing from life or books. Some people say they didn’t know what they wanted to do when they grew up (and some still don’t) and I find that a strange concept. There was never any question for me - It was something to do with drawing. End of discussion!
I studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art followed by an MA at Brighton University in Illustration and loved both courses in very different ways.
2. After specialising in small editions of screen printed books and small paper artworks on my course at Brighton I kept this up and produced a series of self-initiated projects which I took to artists book fairs and exhibited.
3. I worked at Habitat and then Snowhome (a design shop in York) alongside producing books and prints in my spare time. A friend at Habitat suggested I perhaps try screen printing some cards also. Thanks, Nicola - that was a great suggestion!
4. I gained a couple of stockists for the cards and the buyer at the V&A (who remains someone I see at shows regularly) saw my books and cards at the London Artists Book Fair and placed an order. I was beyond ecstatic!
5. After gleaning as much knowledge and advice as I could from Angus at Snowhome, I did my first trade show at Pulse in 2008 (10 years ago!) and now 2 children and many shows later they’re still a very important part of my business. I love going and meeting up with existing stockists (many feel like friends now) and meeting new buyers and shops. I basically love what I do and the fact I can earn a living from it is an absolute bonus!
What is a typical workday for you?
I don’t think there is a typical day ever. Today, for example, I have spent the entire day emailing, catching up with people I recently met or saw at Pulse trade show via emails, invoicing and applying for a couple of events. It hasn’t been the most exciting day but it’s all vital and a couple of emails can lead you to something you never expected would happen so it’s always worth putting in a few days like this particularly after a show.
I suppose typically my day consists of a mad rush before 9am of getting daughters ready for school and nursery and then seeing my eldest on to the bus and taking my youngest to nursery/grandparents. I get back to the studio (which is in our garden at home) for 9:30am and the first job is to make coffee so I can pause for a minute, check emails and begin the working day properly. I’d love to say I went for a walk or did something energetic or healthy to kick-start my day, but the day is so short I literally have to crack on and make the most of all my time. After I’ve dealt with emails and responded to orders, I generally get side-tracked a little by any urgent emails or requests for anything (press images etc.) and fulfill these. Then the rest of the day can be anything from designing, choosing colours for new designs, planning for a show if something is coming up and dealing with printers. It varies quite a lot depending on the time of year. My studio assistant, Rachel, despatches all the orders, so we chat about those throughout the days when she’s in and catch up on anything we need to action.
Then it’s the end of the school/nursery day before I know it! A few times a week I come back out to the studio in the evening and I love my quiet evenings of designing or catching up with something which escaped me during the day. There’s something peaceful about working when you know everyone else is tucked up in bed!
What's the top thing that you can't live without?
I have to say my children as otherwise what kind of mum am I?!
It sounds a little lame, but as a busy mum of two daughters (and one is a 2 yr old) I also can’t live without coffee in the morning! It signifies the start of my working day for me.
I listen to music most of the time too and I need that soundtrack of some sort running in the background.
Tell me your favourite business, cafe, bar or shop + why you like them?
I’m very loyal to Snowhome in York and it’s my favourite business/shop in our area. It’s a design and lifestyle shop and I worked there for 4 years prior to having our eldest daughter. Angus taught me a lot about running a business and he continues to be a go-to person for me on many occasions to ask advice. He’s one of the most astute and canny business people I know and that’s why the shop is into it’s 17th year - which is quite an accomplishment. He’s about to embark on a number of changes to the shop in reaction to the retail climate and he’s adapting the shop and premises accordingly. He sees the business as something which has to be creatively fulfilling for himself and he’s about to take a step closer to this again so I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!
Can you pick 3 products you love from HBK website?
We loved hearing from Alison! And, we've just had a delivery of fresh stock straight from her studio, including her latest collection with Tatty Divine. Go check out her amazing creations right now...